Saturday, July 10, 2021

Galium and not


Some colourful sprigs from the south-facing slope of Cley Hill in Wiltshire. 

Hedge Bedstraw (Galium mollugo). From Cley Hill (Wilts.), 7 July 2021.

Hedge Bedstraw (Galium mollugo), the common summer sight of creamy panicles scrambling over hedges and grassland.  The leaves and the petal lobes both have bristle-like tips. The more usual word for this is "mucronate", but Stace makes a distinction with "apiculate" that I don't entirely grasp. 

Confusingly, the species is also called Galium album. The Swedish name is Stormåra ("Large Bedstraw") -- it occurs almost throughout Sweden. 

Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum). From Cley Hill (Wilts.), 7 July 2021.

Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum). Another common and beautiful sight. The bright yellow colour makes it unmistakable. But the hairy stems and the very narrow leaves are also noticeable. 

In Sweden (Sw: Gulmåra) it's very common throughout the southern half of the country, and it also turns up further north in suitable habitats. 

Squinancywort (Asperula cynanchica). From Cley Hill (Wilts.), 7 July 2021.

For two years in a row I've been struck by this "Galium", got frustrated keying it out, and then turned the page to discover that it isn't a Galium species at all, but belongs to the nearly-related genus Asperula. It's Squinancywort (Asperula cynanchica), with pretty pale pink flowers. It's very common round here (though quite local in the British Isles as a whole), and my only excuse for failing to recognize it is that these plants on the hillside turf are significantly more robust than the ones that grow on closely-mown verges in town. 

Squinancywort (Asperula cynanchica). From Cley Hill (Wilts.), 7 July 2021.

Squinancywort is distinguished by the unequal whorls in which two of the narrow leaves are long, the other two short. 

It's the only Asperula species native to the British Isles, but the genus is quite large: 195 species worldwide. Asperula cynanchica doesn't occur in Sweden, but another species does (though very locally): Asperula tinctoria (Färgmåra, Dyer's Woodruff). Unusually for a dicotyledonous plant, the flowers have only three petal lobes. It was formerly used to make a red dye. 

Trisetum flavescens, maybe. From Cley Hill (Wilts.), 7 July 2021.

Up on the hill I picked a grass-stem too. Note the kinked awns. I reckon it's Yellow Oat-grass (Trisetum flavescens) but I'm always disturbed by thinking it could be one of the two Helictotrichon species. And so another summer is passing, and I still haven't got my head round the oat-grasses . . .

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger